Tuesday, December 30, 2014

TaxSlayer Bowl Preview: Iowa Hawkeyes vs. Tennessee Volunteers

Jacksonville, FL - - The Iowa Hawkeyes (7-5) and the Tennessee Volunteers (6-6) have meet twice before  in football back in 1982 and 1987. The first meeting was in the 1982 Peach Bowl and the later game in the 1987 Kickoff Classic, back when current Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz was an offensive line coach for J. Hayden Fry.

The Hawkeyes and Volunteers will meet in the 2015 TaxSlayer Bowl, the 70th edition of the event, formerly known as the  Gator Bowl. The Game will air on ESPN on Friday, January 2nd at 2:20 p.m. frok Ever-Bank Field (77,511) in Jacksonville, Florida.

Ferentz is the Dean of Big Ten Conference head coaches, in his 16th season as head coach and 25th season overall at Iowa.

For Tennessee, Johnny Majors was head coach at the time back when these two programs meet previously. Today, Butch Jones is head coach for Tennessee, leading the Volunteers to their first bowl, since the 2010 season, in his second season at the helm at this SEC school, since moving over from Cincinnati.

The Volunteers carry a 25-24 program record in bowl games, while Iowa is 6-5 under Ferentz and 14-12-1 overall as a program in bowl games. The series is tied at 1-1, with Iowa owning the 28-22 Peach Bowl win in 1982. The Volunteers won 23-22 in the Kickoff Classic Game in 1987, played in the Meadowlands.

The Iowa vs. Tennessee game should be  a classic Big Ten vs. SEC match up. During the 2014 NCAA Basketball Tournament earlier this year, Tennessee ended Iowa's basketball season. Each team now will finish their 2014 football season head to head in Jacksonville.

Coach Jones thoughts on Iowa ahead of the TaxSlayer Bowl:

"It is a great challenge and they are a very physical football (Iowa) team and we are going to be challenged on each and every snap and they know that. So there is a lot of physicality, a lot of mental toughness, the physical toughness, everything that goes into playing a line of scrimmage game like this game will be and it will be a line of scrimmage game. Obviously they have our respect and they have our attention, all you need to do is watch them on video. Very, very imposing offensive line and defensive line as well."

University of Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz announced Tuesday that junior Jake Rudock will start at quarterback for an eighth consecutive time and the 25th time in his career Friday when the University of Iowa faces Tennessee.

Ferentz named Rudock the starter and echoed what offensive coordinator Greg Davis said Monday that Rudock and sophomore C.J. Beathard would see action in the first half against the Volunteers.

"Jake will start and they will both play," Ferentz said before the Hawkeyes practiced at Fernandina Beach High School. "I don't think it's a huge deal and it won't be a huge deal for our opponent, either, when they look at us. I'll go back to what I said in August: we have two really good quarterbacks; I wish we had this depth at every position. They both have practiced well and competed well and that's all we could ask. Our whole team has made a good effort this month; they have prepared well."

"We will be prepared for both," Tennessee coach Jones said. "Again, they are going to run what they run and there is a reason why they have been successful. They have systems in place. They are an older veteran football team so their players they are able to redshirt their players and their players grow up in their systems. When you watch them on film you see a football team that is very, very fundamentally sound in all aspects of football. The way they use their hands, their overall pad level in the line of scrimmage. They have done a great job of developing that, that is a product of their systems and their systems being in place for many, many years."

Both teams have 16 seniors on their bowl roster, but Tennessee has used 23 true freshmen compared to three by Iowa.

"They have young guys playing, but most of those guys are four and five-star recruits," Ferentz said. "There is a reason we redshirt our guys. We're two different operations that way, but I don't think anybody has an advantage. You could say they are going to be more enthused, although we're enthused to be playing this game; we're excited about the opportunity."

The senior members of the Iowa football program will play their final game as a Hawkeye at the TaxSlayer Bowl. They include LB Quinton Alston, RB Damon Bullock, DT Carl Davis, OL Andrew Donnal, OL Tommy Gaul, LB Chad Gilson, TE Ray Hamilton, DL Mike Hardy, DB John Lowdermilk, WR Kevonte Martin-Manley, WR Damond Powell, DL Wil Rathjen, OL Brandon Scherff, DL Louis Trinca-Pasat, RB Mark Weisman, and WR Drew Zaun. Alston, Scherff, Trica-Pasat and Weisman will also serve as game captains for the Hawkeyes.

Ferentz compares Tennessee's offense to that of Big Ten Conference opponents Maryland and Minnesota.

"They would be foolish not to attack us in a similar manner," Ferentz said. "I'm sure we'll get tested in the same way, the question is, can we respond to that? Can we do a better job of taking away some of the things that hurt us in those two games?"

Iowa lost to Maryland, 38-31, on Oct. 18, and to Minnesota, 51-14, on Nov. 8. Both games were on the road. Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown threw for 120 yards and ran for 99; Minnesota quarterback Mitch Leidner threw for 138 yards and ran for 77.

Defensively, Ferentz said the Volunteers remind him of Nebraska.

"They are talented and have good looking guys on defense," Ferentz said. "They run around and they are pretty experienced in the secondary. They are athletic."

Speaking of Nebraska, it is a game and outcome that has served as extra motivation during the bowl preparation period. The Hawkeyes led 24-7 midway through the third quarter, but lost, 37-34, in overtime, on Nov. 28.

"It's not like we had a banner game that day. The shame is, we didn't play as well as we could have," Ferentz said. "We were disappointed with that last football game for sure. We were sloppy in a lot of areas, coaching included. The team has responded. They have practiced and competed well and hopefully we'll be a better football team Friday than we were the last time we were out."

This is the eighth bowl trip to the state of Florida for the Hawkeyes with Ferentz as head coach. Iowa is making its second appearance in the TaxSlayer Bowl. Iowa lost to Florida, 14-6, in the 1983 Gator Bowl. Tennessee is making its sixth TaxSlayer Bowl appearance. The Volunteers beat Virginia Tech, 45-23, in 1994, when the game was known as the Gator Bowl, in their most recent appearance.

"I can't say enough about the job the TaxSlayer people have done," Ferentz said. "The hospitality has been first class and the place we're staying (Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort) is unbelievable. Everything has been great. The practice site is great, the guys are having a good time, and they are working hard, so everybody is getting eager for the game now."

Iowa is 11-12-0 all-time against the SEC, including a 4-3 mark in bowl games. Following are Iowa’s bowl results against SEC opponents:

2014 Outback Bowl LSU L, 14-21
2009 Outback Bowl South Carolina W, 31-10
2006 Outback Bowl Florida L, 24-31
2005 Capital One Bowl LSU W, 30-25
2004 Outback Bowl Florida W, 37-17
1983 Gator Bowl Florida L, 6-14
1982 Peach Bowl Tennessee W, 28-22

"They have great, great leadership. Again, they are a very well-coached football team, they are very, very experienced and they played a very tough and demanding schedule as well. Again, everyone is good when you go to the bowl season. We are going to get their `A' game and it is going to be a challenge for us to try to bring out A game as well," Tennessee coach Jones said when discussing Iowa, as an opponent.

Iowa best success in 2014 came against a couple of young teams they played earlier in the year in wins at Pittsburgh and at Purdue. Will Tennessee prove similar for Iowa?

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